Sometimes, it seems, the technology is getting the better of us all. There has been a nasty scare off Mauritius where the Volvo Ocean Challenge yachts were roaring past under a huge press of canvas. One, alas, didn’t make it, graunching to a stop on an offshore coral reef, which for some reason was not apparent on the ECDIS with which these high priced boats are equipped and invisible at night. It could be, of course, that it was edited out in an effort to clarify the tiny screen, something which has happened on occasion to navigators on bigger ships. Nobody was hurt, fortunately, but if they get the yacht off it will be a minor miracle.

It was interesting that the yachtsmen, after they were rescued, appeared to be treated very sympathetically, as unfortunate heroes, who had merely suffered a cruel slice of fate. If it had been a big merchant ship, there would have been calls for the master’s head on a plate and he would probably been in gaol by now. There again, an ocean yacht will not have all sorts of pollutants aboard and will have probably squashed rather less coral in its final plunge onto the reef.

But ECDIS assisted casualties continue to bewilder those who spend a king’s ransom equipping their beautiful ships with the best that money can buy. It might be suggested that there is insufficient time being spent in training, as the ship-specific segment of this often seems a trifle casual. It isn’t exactly helped by the plethora of different approaches to the equipment controls, with little standardisation, while it is at least possible that both the junior officers and their seniors (who would be normally checking up on them) are equally confused by what they have been given to navigate.

Author: Michael Grey                           Source: